Geology undergraduate

Emilia smiling in front of the Royal School of Mines building.

I’m Emilia and I have just finished studying Geology at Imperial. 

Imperial is one of the top universities for geology in the country, so that greatly appealed to me when I first researched potential universities.

When you think about prestigious universities, you think of stuffiness, but when I came to an open day it wasn't at all stuffy – everyone was lovely and I felt so welcome.  

I fell in love with the department and the research – it sounded fascinating. The College is in a beautiful location as well. All my worries were put at ease when I visited. 

But I realised I wouldn't be able to study here without the Imperial Bursary. With Imperial being in London, money was an issue. So getting awarded the bursary was a massive weight off my mind.  

Emilia sat on the steps of the Royal School of Mines building.
The facade of the Royal School of Mines building.

Finding a way to do fieldwork

It's a really lovely community in Geology. I've got a lot of friends in the department and you become a lot closer when you do teamwork exercises and fieldwork together.  

A lot of fieldwork would have been pretty much impossible for me, because I've got a disability.

But one positive to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic is that my department adapted to offer virtual fieldwork, and will continue to offer it in the future. I absolutely loved it!

It's been really lovely to gain the mapping skills that I've wanted. 

When I first became unwell, it affected my attendance so I did a lot of remote learning.  But my lecturers were really good and set up live streaming for my lectures.

All the lecturers have been really supportive and if I had any questions – because I couldn't always ask them in the lecture – then I could drop them an email and they would set up meetings with me after. 

Emilia posing with a group of friends.

Exploring Exhibition Road

I was worried that I wouldn't enjoy London as I'm very much a country girl at heart. But when I realised Hyde Park is literally around the corner I felt much better.

I lived in Linstead Hall (part of Eastside Halls), just off Exhibition Road and all the museums. It was an interesting place to be as a geology student – me and my friends would go to the Natural History Museum a lot and buy out their British Geological Society shop! 

My welcome week with the Geology Department was absolutely packed with departmental events. I enjoyed getting all the freebies and meeting new people. 

It was amazing, because I'd never really experienced that many like-minded people in one place. Back home in Nottinghamshire, I'm the only one that loves geology.

Even in sixth form, there were very few of us who were science-minded, so it's nice to be at Imperial where everyone loves it. 

Emilia stood outside the entrance to Linstead Hall.
A close-up of fossils such as ammonites.

Getting support with my disability 

When I started at Imperial, I was a normal fresher – walking around 10,000 steps a day usually. Then I came home for Christmas, caught the flu and basically never really recovered.

I developed an autoimmune condition, which gradually worsened throughout the year and began to affect my movement. Now I use an electric wheelchair around campus.  

When I started back in second year, I just couldn't manage it with my mobility. I ended up making the difficult decision to take an interruption of studies, and my department really supported me on that.

They gave me the option of delaying my studies for a year so I could get used to my medication, and explained the whole process to me. They were absolutely brilliant from day one. 

So was the Imperial College Health Centre – I have nothing but good things to say about that doctor’s surgery.

So I had the year out, learned to manage my condition and returned the year afterward. 

A photo of headphones and notepaper on a desk.

Putting adjustments in place

When I first got ill, my department put me in touch with the Disability Advisory Service (DAS) and I had a meeting with them.

I explained all of my issues, and the advisor helped me come to terms with it.

DAS have been brilliant – when I returned to uni, they made sure that I had all my adjustments in place.

They even offered to give me an assistant to take notes for me, which I didn't end up needing.

I could get back to feeling like my old geology student self. I'm just somebody who happens to have an autoimmune condition – it's not my whole life. 

Emilia sat in her wheelchair on campus.

Being awarded an Imperial bursary  

I wouldn't have been able to live in London without the bursary because my maintenance loan went entirely on my accommodation.

The bursary helped me with all my living costs, my food, and any social events that I want to do.  

Applying for the bursary is simple. You just make sure you've got a box ticked on student finance to say that you want the university to see your income and they contact you if you're eligible.

Then you just fill in a survey online, and get a sum into your bank account every month. So it's quite handy.  

You can choose to have it go towards accommodation costs or tuition fees. But I chose to have it as monthly income for my living costs. 

It meant that I didn’t have to take on a part-time job during university and could focus solely on my studies. 

Emilia sat on the steps outside the Royal Albert Hall.
Hands holding rock samples.
Students sat in a geology lecture.

Finding a routine

I had about 18 taught hours of lectures each week, and did a lot of independent study.

I found I worked best in the evenings, as well as in the afternoons when I had the afternoon off.

I always gave myself Saturday off because I felt like I needed a break! Then I worked on Sunday to prepare for the week ahead. 

In my final year I had my MSci research project, which I really looked forward to. I worked on cutting-edge research and had a really good supervisor for it, which was exciting.

It was a successful project and I really enjoyed it – I recently submitted my thesis to an academic journal and it’s currently under peer review.

Emilia and friends.

Making use of the Careers Service 

Careers advice was amazing from the get-go. I attended a couple of careers events in my department in first year, but it wasn't something I was thinking much about at that point.  

But last year, during internship applications, I began thinking about what kind of industry I wanted to work towards, because I wanted to pick modules that related to that.  

The Careers Service has been brilliant. I was in touch with them last summer to check my CV and cover letters – they've been supportive throughout.

I also spoke to the careers advisor who specialises in disabilities and attended online help sessions. These focused on how to make the most out of your applications and make sure your CV is how it should be for your industry. 

Students queuing at the information desk for the careers service.
Emilia beside a lion statue on the Imperial campus.

Exploring my passions

I’m hoping to find a job in the environmental, energy, or engineering sector, or perhaps go on to further study.

I'll be happy with anything geoscience-related, as I loved my degree and would like to pursue a technical career within earth science. 

Imperial helped me decide that path because of the wide range of modules I was able to take – I was able to discover where my passions lie.

It's hard to put into words how much I have loved my time at Imperial. It’s been incredible and I've loved every minute.  

The thing I will miss most is the people – it just feels like one big community. It's going to be hard to leave but I’m looking forward to becoming a member of the alumni community. 

The departmental staff have been incredibly kind and supportive of me from day one. If you have a worry, it gets sorted. They genuinely care about your wellbeing. 

A piece of my heart will always be at Imperial and the Department of Earth Science and Engineering in particular, so I'll be back to visit on occasion and catch up with the friends I made there! 

Speak to current students

Learn about course options, living in London and what life at Imperial is really like.

Chat with your future

Students smiling while gathered around a laptop.